After you’ve made the investment into a new snow blower, the next step is proper maintenance. This can be the difference in 30 years of happy use or constant trips to the local repair shop. This section will be updated regularly with new questions. If there is something you’d like an answer to regarding maintenance of your snowblower, please contact me.
Oil & Gas
Which oil should I use?
Technically any 5W-30 oil will work. The same stuff you’d buy for your car. You can safely mix brands, but not viscosities.
I recommend purchasing a full synthetic 5W-30 motor oil just to be safe. Synthetic oil helps with heat dissipation and will lube the engine quicker in cold weather. This is important if you store your machine in an unheated space. You made a large investment, don’t skimp on oil.
As for brands, it doesn’t matter much. My preference is Mobil 1 Advanced (sold at Amazon). Penzoil, Quaker State, and others work just fine.
What about 0W-30 oil?
There have been people who choose 0W-30 for extreme cold temperatures (-20ºF and below). Assuming you’re using a full synthetic, the benefits would be negligible. There’s no harm in using it though.
How often should I change the oil?
A goal should be every 25 hours of use. Personally, I do it once a year. It’s part of my end of season maintenance in the Spring.
Admittedly, that is probably overkill. With a good synthetic oil, you probably only need to change every 2-3 years (or 50 hours of use). But oil is cheap and engines are not, so why risk it? Especially since newer machines make oil changes a breeze.
Do snow blowers have oil filters?
Most snow blowers do not have engine oil filters. They are not used enough to require them. But this is a reason why you should change your oil regularly to keep contaminants out of the system.
What kind of gas should I use?
A standard 87 octane gasoline from the gas station will work fine. Using a higher octane is not going to increase performance. Buy your gas in smaller quantities so that it is always fresh. Stale gas is not as combustible and can affect performance.
Can I use E15 (E85) fuel?
No. Ethanol is bad news for small engines (read more here). It absorbs water and can be corrosive.
Unfortunately, in the lower 48 states, most gas is going to be 10% ethanol. It is fine to use in your snow blower. Just be sure to either drain it at the end of the season, or add a fuel stabilizer. If you are lucky enough to find ethanol free gas in your area, get it.
That means you should avoid E15 at all costs. If you can find ethanol-free gas, go for it. But otherwise you’ll likely have to settle for the 10% that comes standard in most.
Can I leave gas in my snow blower over the Summer?
If you use gas that contains ethanol (as most people do), it is a good idea to drain the fuel tank at the end of the season. Ethanol can lead to clogged carburetors and other starting problems come next Fall. So if you’ve got a really expensive snow blower, you might want to play it on the safe side here.
If you don’t have the time for this, adding a fuel stabilizer is a must. It not only keeps the fuel from degrading which can cause clogs, but it’ll offset the negative effects of ethanol in the fuel.
How do I remove gas from the fuel tank?
If you’ve got a lot of fuel left in the tank, you can transfer the excess using a store-bought siphon kit. They’re under $10 and might be handy in a zombie apocalypse. You can take that excess fuel and add it to your vehicle too.
After siphoning out all the gas, run the machine dry and store it away for the Summer.
When should I add a fuel stabilizer?
You should add a fuel stabilizer whenever you’re going a long period of time between uses. Usually at the end of the Winter season when your snow blower will be stored away for months. A fuel stabilizer prevents water from building up in the tank.
There are some people who believe you should always have a stabilizer in small engines. If you’re in a region where snow storms can come months apart, this is not a bad idea.
Which fuel stabilizer is best?
My personal choice is Sta-Bil 360 Marine (it’s the blue one). SeaFoam works well too. Just make sure you’re using something. A new carburetor is not cheap.
How often should I change the spark plugs?
The correct answer is when they go bad. Many maintenance guides state they should be changed annually, but that’s unnecessary and a waste of money. What is necessary is giving them an annual check.
How do I know if a spark plug is bad?
To check on a spark plug, remove if from an engine that has already cooled down. Inspect the porcelain sleeves for any cracks. If you find a crack on the sleeve, it’s toast. Throw it in the trash and replace it with a new one.
Next you’ll want to look for corrosion. A wire brush with carb cleaner can usually do the trick. Just be sure it dries before placing it back in the engine. Spark plugs are cheap, so don’t waste too much time cleaning heavily corroded ones.
Which spark plug brand is best?
I think NGK makes the best spark plugs on the market. Champion is good too. Be sure the gap is set properly.
Preventing Snow Clogging
Do non-stick sprays work?
Non-stick sprays can provide some clogging relief if applied to the auger and chute. They are by no means a fix though. Their effectiveness is temporary.
Which non-stick spray is the best?
DuPont Teflon Snow and Ice Repellant is my choice. Snow-Jet works slightly better, but it’s not worth the extra cost. Especially since a non-stick spray is not a long term solution. These work best when you coat items a day in advance.
Not only can you use this spray on your snow blower chute and auger, but also on snow shovels and satellite dishes.
Can I use cooking spray or WD-40?
Yes you can. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for too long.
What about waxing?
Old school Carnauba wax can also help prevent clogging on particular parts. When you wax your car over the Summer, take some time and work on your snow blower too.
What do skid shoes do?
Skid shoes allow you to adjust the height of the snow blower. Some people prefer to set them low so that their machine scrapes up every last piece of snow. Others need to have more height to prevent rocks and gravel from being caught in the machine.
Properly adjusted skid shoes protect the housing, auger, and gearbox from being damaged. They need to be inspected regularly.
How do I adjust the skid shoes?
Skid shoes have two bolts on each side. Remove the nuts and adjust to the desired height. You can place a piece of wood under the auger housing to get to a specific height. Then tighten the bolts. Make sure the skid shoes are adjusted evenly on both sides.
Many skid shoes are reversible. When one side is worn, simply flip it around and use the other.
What types of skid shoes can I choose from?
There are three types of skid shoes available: steel skids, polyurethane skids, and roller skids.
- Steel – This is the cheapest option and comes standard with most snow blowers today. The downside of metal skids is they can scuff up driveways and leave rust marks.
- Poly – These are typically an aftermarket purchase. The synthetic material prevents the scuffing that can be found on steel skid shoes. Most are reversible which increases their lifespan.
- Roller – This is a new type of skid shoe that adds a small wheel. Increases handling and prevents wear seen on steel and plastic skids.
Which do you prefer?
I always recommend customers switch to poly skids if they can. They move better and won’t scuff up your driveway. Hopefully manufacturers will begin to make the switch.
What causes rust?
Rust is caused by iron in metals coming into contact with water and oxygen. This causes the iron to corrode. Since a snow blower is primarily composed of metal and coming into constant contact with water, this becomes an issue.
How do I keep a snow blower from rusting?
Protecting any exposed metals is the key to preventing rust. Most modern snow blowers come with a powder coat finish which helps a bit, but is no guarantee.
My recommendation is to pick up a product called Fluid Film. This is a lanolin-based lubricant that not only helps prevent rust, but keeps moving parts lubricated. It is non-toxic and non hazardous. Spray Fluid Film on all the metal parts of your snow blower. Take extra care on the auger, gear box, chute, and the interior of the auger housing.
Another effective technique is to wax your snow blower just like you would your car. I prefer an old fashioned Carnuba wax, but anything will do. Give the machine a good wax in the Spring when you’re doing your car.
With that said, rust is inevitable in the long term. Do your best to prevent what you can and slow down the acceleration of it.
Be careful with covers inside
One mistake I see with people who store their snow blower inside is using a cover. If you want to use a cover, it needs to have proper ventilation and be put on when the machine has fully dried. A non-ventilated cover will trap moisture and become a breeding ground for rust.